Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Interview with an Agent: Kathleen Rushall

Excited to share an unusual Wednesday edition of "Interview with an Agent" with you! Today’s interview features Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Ms. Rushall has a jam-packed schedule this week, so the interview’s not interactive, but her answers to the usual questions are quite informative, I think. Happy reading!

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

KR: First of all, thank you so much for interviewing me! I really appreciate it and I love to appear on blogs like Mother. Write. (Repeat.)--places where we all have the same passion.

I officially became an agent in May of 2011, but I was assisting other agents with their projects and on administrative tasks in an agency before that. I interned at the Sandra Dijkstra Agency for six months and then worked at Waterside Productions for about a year and a half before becoming an agent with Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

KR: I look at the author-agent relationship as a give and take. I really view it as a partnership. Like all strong partnerships, it should be built on communication, respect, and honesty. I expect authors to work hard, to always strive for improvement (good writing is a process), to have initiative, and to be open and upfront about their ideas, brainstorming, and goals. And I hope they expect the same from me as their agent.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

KR: I represent children’s fiction including picture books (looking for quirky, character-driven, and funny), middle grade, and young adult fiction. For both YA and middle grade books, the voice is paramount (haven’t heard that before, eh?).

For middle grade books, I’m looking for something with a strong voice that’s fast paced with good character development. I’m really open to anything: girl-centric, multicultural, boy POV, adventure, fantasy, contemporary, etc.

For YA I especially love Southern gothic, thrillers, mysteries, I’d love to find a good ghost story, historical fiction (Western, anyone?), romance, science fiction. Again, a memorable and engaging voice is key and I’m really looking for that unique plot with characters I care about. So, sorry to be completely unoriginal here, but voice and hook are important!

I’m also representing adult nonfiction in the areas of crafts (DIY), how-to, pop culture, parenting, business, and health.

KV: Are you interested in picture book writers who AREN'T illustrators?

KR: I actually prefer picture book writers who are just writing the text. I'm not currently looking for illustrators. Great question!

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

KR: Honestly, it’s just simple things. I think anyone reading this blog is already on the right track with the preparation. Things like not putting the title of the book in the query letter or not addressing me specifically at the opening (please no “Dear Agent”s or, worse still, “Dear Sir”s).

The only other thing is to make sure you’re ready. You should have your critique partners help you decide this--have people read over your letter and, of course, your manuscript. Edit edit edit. This is your first impression so you want to make sure it’s as strong as possible.

KV: You only want to see the query letter in a writer’s initial contact (if the writer queries by e-mail), but several respected industry sites have advised writers to include a few sample pages at the bottom of every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes ahead and adds those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

KR: Actually, I would love to see the first ten pages of the manuscript included in the body of the e-mail with the query letter.

I know there is a lot of conflicting information online on various sites about which agent wants what for each submission; I feel bad for the confusion! If you don’t include the first ten pages, that’s fine; I will always request what I want to see. Just makes it nice and easy when it’s already in the letter. But please no attachments of the full manuscript with the initial query letter.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

KR: Since I’m open to a wide range, it seems like it may be most helpful here to focus on what I’m not looking for.

Right now, for YA, I’m burned out on paranormal “creatures” (this can include anything from vampires to werewolves to angels to fairies). There are exceptions (like I said, I’m into ghosts and witches), but paranormal romance and dystopians aren’t something I’m currently looking for.

For picture books, I don’t represent rhyming texts, and the book really has to make me laugh for me to love it. I want humor in my picture books!

For middle grade, I don’t want anything too “quiet.” There really has to be a strong hook that keeps the story moving. I hope this helps!

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

KR: The best way to query me is electronically. I do accept snail mail queries, but I prefer e-mails. Just e-mail me your query letter and the first ten pages of your book (in the body of the e-mail vs. as an attachment) at

For picture books, please go ahead and include your picture book text in the e-mail as well. For nonfiction proposals, you can just include your query letter and I can ask for your proposal. Can’t wait to see what’s out there!

Thanks again, Ms. Rushall, for taking the time to answer these questions. And good luck to everyone who decides to query. I won’t be surprised if that’s quite a few of you:)

P.S. Don’t forget to drop by this Friday for more details on next week’s round of “An Agent’s Inbox.” Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary is going to be The Agent, and I know she’s ready and raring to go. Looking forward to next week!


Maggie Hall said...

Great interview! Thanks Krista and Ms. Rushall!

J.R. Johansson said...

Great interview! I'm represented by Kathleen and she's amazing. :)

rosalyn said...

Another terrific interview--Krista, thanks for all your hard work!

Elizabeth Briggs said...

Great interview!

Krista V. said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments! (And a big thank-you to J.R. Johansson for stopping by and giving Ms. Rushall your cliently seal of approval!)

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks, Krista! I'm adding Ms. Rushall to my list.

Janet Johnson said...

Thanks so much for this! Great interview. Adding Kathleen to my list. :)

Krista V. said...

Yay, Myrna and Janet! I love adding agents to writers' to-query lists:)

Angie Sandro said...

Hi Krista,
I love your blog and it was a wonderful surprise to read your interview. YAY!

Kathleen is so supportive and enthusiastic about her clients. I count myself as beyond lucky to be represented by her. So, query her like mad everyone:)

Escape Artist said...

Ooo, this was a little bit of interesting!
But honestly Krista, you're putting the rest of us to shame!
Still don't know how you do it, but I'm awfully glad you are!

Krista V. said...

Angie, good to hear from you! I love it when clients stop by and talk up their agents:)

Thanks, Linda. You're always so kind. I guess it's the people pleaser in me - I always want to make everyone happy:)